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Monday, August 12, 2019

Harmon Killebrew hit some shots in the Southern League; He later hit a lot more for the Twins

Upon Harmon Killebrew's election to the Hall of Fame in 1984, longtime teammate Bob Allison spoke of the player and man he got to know over the years, according to the St. Louis Sporting News.

In fact, Allison had known Killebrew for years, prior to their major league time, The Sporting News wrote.

"Harmon and.I go back to the minor leagues together." Allison said, according to the Sporting News. "I remember some shots he hit in the Southern League—in Chattanooga and Birmingham— that were awesome, balls that had never been hit out of those spots in those stadiums before. I'm tickled to death for him."

The Southern League reference would come into play a few years after his induction, as Killebrew visited the league's All-Star game in Chattanooga to throw out the first pitch. The visit got him onto the game's team set as a VIP, one more card in a long career of them.

Killebrew's path to Cooperstown began in 1954, signed by Washington out of Albertson College in Idaho.

His path to the majors was a short one. He debuted in Washington without seeing the minors. He debuted a few days shy of his 18th birthday due to the bonus rule at the time that required him stay in the bigs for two seasons.

Killebrew saw nine games that year an 38 the next. He then played 1956 largely at single-A Charlotte and 1957 and 1958 largely at AA Chattanooga. He then made the bigs for good in 1959.

Killebrew hit 42 home runs in his first year in the majors with regular playing time. He also got his first of 13 all-star nods.

Killebrew then moved with the franchise to Minnesota for 1961 and he soon became a fixture there. Over his first four seasons there, he never hit fewer than 45 home runs. He hit a career high 49 in 1964, a mark he would tie in 1969.

In a feature on Killebrew to start the 1963 season, Sports Illustrated quoted a sportswriter as describing Killebrew's swing.

"Harmon can hit a ball out of the park on a half swing, he's that strong," the sportswriter observed, according to SI. "When he slumps, it's his timing that's off. He swings with his whole body, and once he starts he can't stop."

Killebrew went on to play through 1975. With his early start in the bigs, he saw time in 22 major league seasons. He played with the Twins in the 1965 World Series and in the 1969 and 1970 ALCS.

He ended with 573 career home runs, 1,584 career RBIs and a career batting average of .256. He then made the Hall of Fame in 1984.

Upon Killebrew's passing in 2011, Twins President Dave St. Peter tried to describe Killebrew's impact on baseball in Minnesota, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

"No individual has ever meant more to the Minnesota Twins organization ... than Harmon Killebrew," St. Peter said, according to The Star-Tribune.
1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured:3,160
Made the Majors:1,148-36.3%
Never Made Majors:2,012-63.7%
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 475
10+ Seasons in the Minors:283


  1. I was working in the Lookouts front office in 1990. When we were discussing the possibility of bringing in a former Lookout to serve as master of ceremonies, some names were thrown around and I suggested Harmon Killebrew. A few guys kind of laughed it off, but I went to work on it immediately and wound up getting him to come for the weekend! His agent told me he was not doing well health-wise and said he was staying with Bob Allison in Arizona. He was nice as can be from that first phone call. Several followed in the weeks ahead and we were able to hammer out the details to get Harmon aboard for the festivities. That was perhaps by proudest accomplishment during the time I worked in minor league baseball.